Monday, December 15, 2008

How the Future Affects the Now

So if you won the lottery, but would not receive the check for, say, a month or so, would it affect your behavior today?

I suspect for most the answer is, yes, our behavior would change today, perhaps even radically -- we might quit our jobs, we might spend our current income more freely (whether on charity or on ourselves), we might forgive debts that others owe to us (sums that seemed so large when we had so little, but now are just trivial sums).

Further, our behavioral changes in no way represent attempts to "merit" the lottery payment that we've already won -- that makes no sense; we've already won the lottery and what we do doesn't affect that. Our changed behavior merely reflects our expectation of a new life as a lottery winner.

While salvation is a "lottery" that anyone can win simply by receiving Jesus' finished work, it seems to work analogously. We are heirs of life in Jesus Christ. While we do not yet see our full inheritance, our expectation of that inheritance cannot help but affect how we live today.

Why fear living in accord with our new life as Christ's heir (necessary changes being made for it not yet being fully revealed to us)? To the extent that we trust that we inherit from Christ, to that extent, like the lottery winner who has not yet received his check, our life changes now. Indeed, it cannot help but change now.

And similarly, those life changes in no way "merit" our inheritance. In fact, our life changes are fully the reflection of our inheritance, not the cause of it. We give away freely because of what we have already received from Christ, not to earn our inheritance in Christ. It doesn't even make sense to talk about our behavior meriting something from Christ in this framework.

Nonetheless, whether our behavior changes in response to winning the lottery does reflect whether we "trust" the agency in charge of the lottery. If we do not trust it to pay out, then our behavior will change little; if we trust much, then our behavior will change much.

And so with Christ. To the extent that we trust Jesus much, then our behavior will change a lot. If we trust little, then our behavior will change very little.

I should probably add that we also need to trust that what Christ offers us -- the opportunity to dwell with God -- are riches indeed, of greater value than gold or silver. (It seems to me that Adam and Eve's sin was that they believed that God wanted to deprive them of good things -- life, beauty, and wisdom -- and so did not trust God.)

Nonetheless, if we confess that our riches are in Christ, then that cannot help but change our behavior in this age, perhaps change it radically. And, futhermore, our changed behavior in no way represents an attempt to "merit" the Age to Come, but is fully a reflection of our expectation of the Age to Come.


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